For most of President Trump’s time in office, we’ve had to worry about his aggressive use of the executive power and his penchant for pushing or exceeding the limits of his authority. Unfortunately, we now are suffering from his failure to use the authority he actually possesses to protect us from the coronavirus pandemic.
The problem of presidential inaction is not addressed very well by the Constitution. The Framers worried more about checking and balancing elected officials than about spurring them to action. Fortunately, many governors and other public officers have stepped up to fill the void. But that doesn’t help in the states or cities where elected officials have been slow to act. Nor does it solve the need for a federal government that can mobilize and coordinate a national strategy for fighting a pandemic.
Over many decades, we’ve seen an ever-increasing centralization of national power in the Oval Office, and that has left with us with too many of our public policy eggs in one basket. We need to decentralize the power of the executive branch, and one important way to do that would be to have a public health agency with the stature and independence of the Federal Reserve. Just as the Fed can act on its own to protect our economic health, so do we need a federal agency that can act on its own to protect our physical health.